Dodgers lose, clinch postseason spot for Cardinals

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The Dodgers’ season is over, and one can only hope manager Don Mattingly learned a couple of lessons tonight.

The Giants won 4-3 in L.A. on Tuesday night to end the Dodgers’ playoff hopes and clinch the second wild card for the Cardinals. St. Louis could have clinched with a win earlier in the evening, but the Cardinals to the Reds 3-1.

The Dodgers were down 2-1 in the fifth tonight when Mattingly opted to intentionally walk Angel Pagan with a man on second, setting up a double play with one out. Marco Scutaro immediately followed with a two-run double, giving the Giants a 4-1 lead. The Giants could have kept adding on from there, but after Pablo Sandoval singled, Matt Guerrier came in and managed to strike out MVP candidate Buster Posey.

The Dodgers were able to bounce back in the seventh. A.J. Ellis hit a two-run homer to pull the team within 4-3. Mark Ellis then doubled, only to get thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple with one out. Shane Victorino immediately followed with a triple, yet he was stranded on base when Matt Kemp struck out to end the frame.

Mattingly can’t be blamed for that one. His big decision in the ninth didn’t work out, though. After Andre Ethier singled to start the inning, Mattingly sent up A.J. Ellis to bunt. The catcher fell behind 0-2 trying to get the bunt down and then swung and missed on a slider well outside the strike zone. Once that happened, Mattingly decided to insert Dee Gordon as a pinch-runner and Bobby Abreu as a pinch-hitter. Abreu flew out to left, and though Gordon was able to steal second base with two out, Mark Ellis had his looping liner to center caught to end it.

Barry Zito got his 15th win tonight. The Giants have won each of his last 11 starts, with Zito going 7-0 during the span. He appears likely to be the team’s No. 4 starter in the postseason over Ryan Vogelsong.

Chris Capuano took the loss for the Dodgers. He gave up solo homers to Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias in his three innings of work.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.